Aussie school trials use of gadgets in exams
I don't know the answer - can I phone a friend?
Using notes during exams - aka cheating - usually gets you an instant 'F'. But at one Australian school the pupils can now use mobiles, iPods and the internet during their exams.
Presbyterian Ladies' College in Sydney is running a trial among year nine English students, allowing them to access information from the net, speak to friends by mobile phone and listen to podcasts during a series of 40-minute tasks.
For example, one session asked pupils to discuss Martin Luther King's “I have a dream” speech. They were allowed to search for information about the speech online and get friends’ points of view, but the girls were only marked on use of persuasive language.
The girls aren’t allowed to check the web for answers in, say, a maths exam.
The school requires pupils to cite all sources, in an effort to discourage plagiarism.
Dierdre Coleman, the English teacher behind the pilot, told the Sydney Morning Herald that children must prepare for real-world information access methods.
“What they will need to do is access information from all their sources quickly and they will need to check the reliability of their information,” she said.
Provided the pilot is successful, Presbyterian Ladies' College plans to expand the exam format out to all subjects by the end of 2008.
It's an extension to open book exams
I don't know the quick route for calculating standard deviation any more (though I once did); I'm allowed to use a program written by someone who does. But I am expected to know when it's the right test to do and when it isn't, so if I say a stats test tomorrow, it wouldn't be inappropriate to allow me to use a stats package.
Similarly, in this case I see no reason to prevent the students getting access to the text of the speech and perhaps some background material - but I'm not so sure about 'phone a friend'. Talking to people to report what popular opinion on an issue is would be a reasonable thing to do - but there is the risk of "Hi! Sarah? What do I think about Martin Luther King in about 500 words?" or - far simpler - "Sarah? Can you give me some good search keywords to find out about some American guy who dreamt something?"
A maths professor allowed this
On my technical university.
You were even allowed to use a notebook with Mathematica or Maple.
Most people believed the exam would be super-easy like this - but the prof just formulated the questions in a way that made notebooks next to useless.
You first had to get a grasp of the story that was described, before you could actually start doing calculations.
Lot's of people failed and he had to stop this concept later...
I didn't own a notebook anyway and I did never failed. You just had to do the exercises.
learning vs memorizing
There is a marked difference between "learning", and thus understanding something, and simply memorizing facts and figures. Assuming the exams are structured in such a way as to allow students to show what they have learned, it will go a long way towards reversing the trend in many places to have exams that simply show what you have memorized. Facts can be looked up. It's a damn sight harder to fake understanding of the materials. The hardest exams I've had have all been "open book" exams, and the profs giving these exams were very good at making sure people were tested on what they had learned, not what they had memorized.
Looks like those people who don't like this method have confused "learning" with "rote memorization". I'm glad that at least one school has finally learned the difference.
Great idea. But
There should be a way for the schools to profit from the use of its resources rather than the ISPs and/or phone companies.
I just finished college (US degree- a Bachelor's program) and had a few classes that had open-Google tests. I did well with those- but they were pretty much always structured such that you HAD to think on your own. Yeah, I access to reference material, but I had to actually convince the professor that it was my own work and my own words. It definitely did help bridge the gap between rote memorization and application just a formula or such and being able to pull information you don't have memorized together.
Some things are realistic to want memorized, such as how to configure your computer and network sufficiently to be able to get to the web, but other things were obscure enough that I don't remember how to do them after passing them on the test- but I DO know how to find the information I need. At least at my school, the average technical student was taught how to perform the tasks on the conceptual level, and a few specific implementations. Beyond that, we were expected to use every reference material we could get our hands on, be it Google or a book.
Personally, I felt that open tests like the sort described tended to do a far better job of letting me show what I had learned in the course than a lot of other exams, which frequently were multiple choice or short answer of a memorized problem/solution.
In a business environment, which is usually more valuable to a company: someone who learns the specific tasks that are needed on a daily basis easily, and can use reference material when needed, or someone who can do a certain set of tasks extremely well, but needs a lot more time and hand holding to get up to speed on anything else? I've definitely noticed that a lot of companies I was interviewing with wanted someone who could use reference material more.